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Title: The Human Rights Act 1998 in constitutional context : the common law, the rule of law, and human rights
Author: Fairclough, Thomas
ISNI:       0000 0004 7653 1043
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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The Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) is seen as a landmark piece of constitutional legislation that brought about many legal and political changes in the United Kingdom's human rights architecture. Yet the HRA is vulnerable to repeal; successive governments have promised to repeal or otherwise alter the HRA. In this climate, the Supreme Court has instructed counsel to argue common law rights first, with the HRA there to supplement and fill the gap on the occasions where the common law does not go as far as the HRA. The logical conclusion of this is that the Supreme Court, or at least some Justices, think that the common law adequately protects rights to a level near, if not the same as, the HRA does; the results of arguing the common law will often be the same as those resulting from reliance on the HRA. The academic commentary regarding these judicial statements has been far from enthusiastic. The consensus is that common law rights do not go as far as the HRA in terms of their width, that the enforcement mechanisms lack rigour compared to s 3 HRA and the proportionality principle, and that they are vulnerable to legislative override. Therefore, a loss of the HRA would be a loss for the legal protection of rights. This thesis disputes the conclusion stated in the foregoing paragraph. It argues that one has to view the vectors against which one can measure the potency of common law rights through the lens of the rule of law. This principle, the controlling factor in the constitution, promises protection against arbitrary behaviour by state actors because it embodies the value of equality of concern. Once this is appreciated, an entirely new dimension of common law rights becomes apparent; the reach of rights, their rigour of protection, and their constitutional resilience are revealed to be much stronger than orthodoxy suggests.
Supervisor: Elliott, Mark Christopher Sponsor: AHRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Administrative Law ; Judicial Review ; Human Rights Act 1998 ; Constitutional Law ; Common Law Rights